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What You Need to Know About Osteoporosis

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Updated May 16, 2014

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes weakening of the bones in your body. Also called "brittle bone disease," osteoporosis increases your chance of sustaining a broken bone. Broken bones can cause significant problems, especially when a spine fracture or broken hip occurs. Because of these concerns, all people should understand their chance of developing osteoporosis, and if they need steps to prevent the development or progression of osteoporosis.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis
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Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens the bones of your skeleton. Bones, like other tissues in your body, are living structures that constantly are changing. New bone is made and old bone is taken away. Osteoporosis develops when the pace of new bone formation cannot keep up with the loss of bone.

How is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?

osteoporosis bone density
Photo © Constantinos Gerakis
Everyone should know their risks for developing osteoporosis, and anyone who is "at risk" for osteoporosis should have their bone density checked. A bone density test can be performed for patients who may have osteoporosis. Bone density tests are also useful to monitor the progression of osteoporosis and the response to treatments.

When Should I Be Tested?

Photo © Sheryl Griffin
Some people should be tested for osteoporosis at an earlier age. Knowing the signs to look for can help you understand when the time is right to have a bone density test. If you are ever unsure, you should discuss this with your doctor. It is also a good idea to ask your doctor about a bone density test. Your doctor may be focused on management of your blood pressure, cholesterol, or other medical conditions. It is helpful if you ask about when to have a bone density test.

Warning Signs & Symptoms

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes thin and weak bone. Preventing the progression of osteoporosis can help reduce the risk of fracturing the bone. Know the warning signs that you may have osteoporosis, so you can get help preventing the progression of this condition.

Osteoporosis Drugs

Photo © Gold Standard
Medications are often used as part of the treatment for patients with osteoporosis, as well as those who have a significant chance of developing osteoporosis. Most osteoporosis medications try to prevent our natural process of bone loss. A new type of medication is also being used in some situations to stimulate bone formation.

Osteoporosis & Fractures

hip fracture osteoporosis
Photo © Jonathan Cluett, M.D.
Broken bones are the often the end result of osteoporosis. The goal of treatment is to prevent sustaining a broken bone, especially a broken hip. Some of the more commonly fractured bones in the body as a result of osteoporosis include: Any broken bone can be the result of osteoporosis. These are the more common injuries seen with this condition.

Prevention of Fractures

The problem with osteoporosis is that this condition increases your chance of sustaining a fracture. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent these injuries. Most osteoporosis related fractures occur as the result of simple injuries and falls around the house. Taking steps to improve your bone health helps to prevent fractures. Other steps you can take include checking medications for side-effects that can lead to falls, and having your vision regularly evaluated.
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